About 50 years ago, Harry and Gladys Samonds owned Ferrell’s Corner, a tavern, and the Illini Court Motel at Clear Lake and Dirksen. Harry was pretty well-known in Springfield when he died in 1969. He left behind Gladys and his son, Mike, at their home on Ridge Avenue.
Mike was only 15 when his father died. As a minor, he qualified for survivor benefits through Social Security. Monthly checks were sent to Gladys since Mike was a minor. ...
Today, Mike and his wife, Brenda, live in Glenarm. After filling out their federal tax return for last year, they were due a refund. A few weeks ago the refund check arrived. But it was $189.10 light.
Mike and Brenda thought that was odd and were wondering what the explanation could be. They soon found out. A letter to them from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service out of Alabama said money was being deducted from the Samonds’ refund and would be taken by Social Security to satisfy Mike’s debt to said agency. ...
The notice from Treasury says, and I quote, “The Agency has previously sent notice to you at the last address known to the Agency.” (That would be Gladys’s 40-year-old address) “That notice explained the amount and type of debt you owe, the rights available to you, and that the Agency intended to collect the debt by intercepting any Federal payments made to you, including tax refunds.”
A letter, dated April 10, arrived from the folks at Social Security. It says, “We recently received $189.10 of a Federal payment you were due and used it toward the overpayment of Social Security benefits paid to you.”
Social Security says, then, that over 40 years ago it overpaid $189.10 in Mike’s survivor benefits and it took that amount from the Samonds’ tax refund to make it good. ...
The letter to Mike and Brenda from Social Security included a Chicago phone number for Mike to call if he had any questions. Of course he did. But I don’t even need to tell you what happened when Mike called the number.
“I was on hold for 45 minutes,” he says. “I put the phone down but could hear the music playing. When it stopped, I picked it up.”
He might as well have called Mars for all the assistance he got.What happened here was not some weird accident. It's official policy. There is no statute of limitations on collection of overpayments by administrative offset. Not even 50 years.
Is this reasonable?